A US judge has sentenced 84-year-old nun and peace activist Megan Rice to 35 months in federal prison under the “Sabotage Act” for breaking into the Y-12 nuclear complex at Oak Ridge and spray-painting antiwar slogans on the exterior.
Rice, who has a long history of anti-nuclear activism, was initially charged with misdemeanor trespass, but the charges were ratcheted up to felony sabotage of a military facility by the Justice Department, who argued the non-violent protest “endangered US national security.”
In reality, the Rice protest underscored ridiculously lax security at Y-12, where the US keeps its weapons-grade enriched uranium. That an 82-year-old snuck in totally undetected with spray paint and food (which she offered to the guard that finally caught her) was no small embarrassment to the administration, and likely the real source of the stiff sentence.
Rice had been arrested more than three dozen times before Y-12, usually on trivial charges related to other antiwar protests. She also twice served six months in prison for protesting against the School of the Americas in the late 1990s.
During her testimony in the trial, Rice said that “I regret I didn’t do this 70 years ago.” The Y-12 facility has supposedly undergone considerable security upgrades since, which will ideally keep future octogenarian nuns from infiltrating the site.